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Obama to Hold Press Conference; News Conference in Newtown, Connecticut; Interview with Mayor Villaraigosa

Aired January 14, 2013 - 11:00   ET


AARON NAGLER, BLEACHER REPORT: Atlanta didn't really have to worry about it that much. It will be interesting to see what happens when Kaepernick takes the field.

CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": I can't wait. I can't wait till next weekend.

Aaron Nagler, thank you so much.

ENGLER: Thanks so much for having me.

COSTELLO: And thank you for joining me.

I'm Carol Costello. "CNN Newsroom" continues right now with Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, everyone, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome you to our special coverage leading into President Obama's last news conference in his first term as president of the United States.

The president will be meeting with reporters in the East Room of the White House. He's getting ready for that. Originally, he was scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Eastern. It's now been rescheduled to 11:30 a.m., about a half hour or so from now.

We've got all of our reporters, our analysts standing by to assess what's going on. There you're seeing a live picture of the White House right now on this Monday morning.

Once again, this will be the president's last formal news conference in his first term as president. He's sworn in for his second term as president, officially, on Sunday, but all the ceremonies will be on Monday, one week from today.

The president will open his news conference later today, we're told, with a statement on the debt ceiling and why he has said repeatedly over these past several weeks that he will not negotiate with Republicans when it comes to raising the nation's debt ceiling.

That pays for bills that have already been incurred, bills that have been appropriated by Congress, signed into law by the president, and, as a result, he says he won't negotiate. Republicans say that is a bargaining chip that they have to try to cut spending to deal with the nation's deficit. We're watching what's going on at the White House. We'll have the full coverage of the news conference leading into it.

We're also watching right now what's happening in Newtown, Connecticut, one month to the day after that brutal massacre. You're looking now at live pictures, a news conference there. They're going to read a poem. Let's listen in.


NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOM OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: It is a sad honor to be here today. It's been one month since I lost my son, Dylan, and 25 other teams lost their loved ones.

At times, it feels like only yesterday and at other times it feels as if many years have passed. I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a car parking lot. It's so hard to believe he's gone.

At the same time, I look at our community and what has been achieved in one month. A vacant school has been lovingly restored with great care and attention to welcome students back into a peaceful and safe environment.

Many businesses and groups are promoting the love we have in Newtown as well as fundraising to help those in most need. Neighbors here and elsewhere are reaching out to each other to provide support, services, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on.

I have had the honor to meet people from similar events in Aurora, Columbine and Virginia Tech and hope they can teach us ways to help heal our families in town.

I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time. I do not want there to be a next time.

The Sandy Hook Promise's the start of our change. It's a promise we make for our community, but we need a nation of communities to join us in making and delivering on these promises if we are going to achieve true transformation.

I don't know yet what these changes are. I come with no preconceived agenda. I do believe there's no quick-fix, single action, but instead a multitude of interlinked actions that are needed.

I love Newtown and I love Sandy Hook. My family chose to live here and we stand by our choice. One tragedy cannot undermine this town's spirit and love. It was already strong before December 14, and if we could flash forward and look at Newtown in one year, three years or several years after that, I know we will se a community that's even stronger and more beautiful than it was previously, a place that is helping to lead change and modeling the way a community should be.

I'm proud to be part of this town and I'm proud to stand before you to stand for my son, Dylan, and pledge my enduring support to this promise. NELBA MARQUEZ, MOM OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: I'm Ana's mom. On Friday, December 14, I put two children on the bus and only one came home. I pray that no mother, father, grandparent or care giver of children ever have to go through this pain.

In our home, our faith, our family and our friends have helped carry us through this unbearable pain. We know that Jesus, our good shepherd, walks with us. He has promised us comfort and healing and rest. And, though, we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear darkness or evil or hate.

We are choosing love. In this way, we are honoring Ana's life and the legacy of love and faith. Love wins. Love wins in Newtown and may love win in America.

The Sandy Hook promise, our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. And it is with this knowledge that we are able to move forward with purpose and strength. This is a promise to support our own, our families, our neighbors, our teachers, our community with dedication and love as well as the material and financial needs they will require in the days ahead.

This is a promise to truly honor the lives lost by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. This is a promise to be open to all possibilities. There is no agenda other than to make our communities and our nation a safer better, place.

This is a promise to have the conversations on all the issues, conversations where listening is as important as speaking, conversations where even those with the most opposing views can debate in good will.

HOCKLEY: This is a promise to turn the conversation into actions. Things must change. This is the time. This is a promise we make to our precious children because each child, every human life, is filled with promise and, though we continue to be filled with unbearable pain, we choose love, belief and hope instead of anger.

This is a promise to do everything in our power to be remembered not as the town filled with grief and victims, but as the place where real change began. Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. This is our promise, the Sandy Hook Promise.


BLITZER: So, there it is the Sandy Hook Promise. Exactly one month ago today, a horrible, horrible massacre occurred at that Sandy Hook Elementary School. I remember going there in the days that followed, an event that changed all of our lives to be sure, the horror of that day.

And now these family members, these parents and community leaders are meeting with the Sandy Hook Promise. They want to take something away from what that tragedy was and deal with it and begin this long, long journey with moving on, hoping it will never, ever happen again. We will continue to watch what's happening in Newtown, Connecticut throughout this day, special coverage here on CNN today. Tonight, Anderson Cooper will be back reporting from Newtown. Later tonight, a special "Piers Morgan Tonight" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, all about what has happened in this month since that massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. We'll continue to watch that.

We're also awaiting the start of the president's last news conference in his first term as president of the United States. We're only about 20 minutes or so away. We're going to go live to the East Room of the White House. The president will open with a statement on raising the nation's debt ceiling, the deficit, the economic issues facing the country and then he'll answer reporters questions, extensive coverage with all of our reporters and our analysis right after this.


BLITZER: We're standing by for the president of the United States. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We have extensive coverage leading to his last news conference in his first term as president. He's inaugurated for a second term, officially, on Sunday. That's January 20th with all the ceremonies. The formal ceremonies will continue on Monday, one week from today.

We've learned that the president will devote his opening statement at the news conference to the next looming showdown with Congress. That would be raising the nation's debt ceiling which we technically bumped into on New Year's Eve. They're using sort of bookkeeping mechanisms now to deal with it.

Quite a few Republicans are hoping, though, to use these negotiations to get the spending the spending cuts they couldn't get in last month's so-called fiscal cliff showdown.

The president insists he won't negotiate over raising the debt ceiling at all. He says Congress has an obligation to pay all the bills it's already racked up, period.

We'll be covering the president's news conference from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

I want to go to our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, first. First of all, Ali, remind our viewers -- we're going to be airing a lot about the debt ceiling in this news conference -- why this is so critically important?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's important and it's misrepresented, so a lot of people all the way from politicians to people's financial advisers will tell you that it's a lot like your credit him or your line of credit. It's not like either of those things. It is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Most government in the world understand that, once you decide to pay for something, once you decide to pass a bill that requires money, you're obligated to pay for it. In the United States what used to happen is that if there was a deficit, the Treasury would have to issue bonds to pay for every single piece of law. So, the debt ceiling was established so that Treasury could borrow lumps of money to pay for things Congress had already committed to. They wouldn't have to go back every time. It was meant to make it easier for Treasury.

So, it was never meant to be a debt control or spending control mechanism, but what it is is the ability to write the check for things that government has already spent. As a result if the government doesn't raise the debt ceiling by about February 15, the amount of money that will have to go out will exceed the amount of money that's coming in.

It already did that, starting December 31st, but Treasury is using some unusual mechanisms to keep the bills paid until then. After that, it becomes a bigger problem, Wolf. There are differing opinions on what would happen, but in some cases, the United States may have to delay payment of bills. And these bills are paychecks. They are bond interest. They're all sorts of things.

And at that point, the United States could risk going into some sort of default and seeing its bond rates go up, which would make borrowing for the United States and lots of people a lot more expensive, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it raises into question the full faith and credit of the United States ...

VELSHI: That's right.

BLITZER: ... of America and the last time we went through this fight, remember in 2011, the summer of 2011, America's credit rating went down. Interest rates went up a little bit. Could we see that kind of situation unfold once again?

VELSHI: So, this is the only place, Wolf, where it makes sense to compare this to your personal situation or your business situation. If the credit rating of the United States goes down, in theory, your interest rate should go up.

What happened last time in August of 2011, S&P downgraded the United States, but because there was so much going on in the rest of the world, including Europe, these ratings agencies don't look at you in isolation. They say, compared to everything else in the world, the U.S. is still a safer bet than other major countries that issue currency that you can buy.

So, as a result, U.S. interest rates did not go up to the extent that some thought it might, but now we have a different situation. Europe is getting its act together. The U.S., a year and a half later, still isn't, so there is a chance that rates could go up. And, again, these are government borrowing rates. They're still very, very low, but that does have a trickle-down effect into other borrowing rates, so the net effect of messing around with the full faith and credit of the United States government is that interest rates, borrowed money, could become more expensive, Wolf. BLITZER: Ali, stand by. I got Gloria Borger. I got Dana Bash. We got our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. But the mayor of Los Angeles is also here in Washington right now, Antonio Villaraigosa.

From the perspective of one of the largest cities in the United States, Los Angeles, obviously your city, Mayor, you look at a news conference like this. We're going to hear the president say, once again, I assume, he's not going to negotiate with Congress over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

How does that play in an urban area like L.A. or New York or Chicago or Boston, a major city?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR, LOS ANGELES: Well, I can tell you this. The Republicans in the Congress are playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States of America and that doesn't go well in L.A. or it doesn't go well in Peoria, frankly.

The fact of the matter is these are debts that have already been accumulated. They have been racked up as the president has said and we've got to pay for them. They sound like a bunch of deadbeats and I don't think that goes with most people.

They want to see both sides work together, yes, Democrat and Republican, a novel thing in the Congress. They want them to fix, make sure that we don't default on our debts, that we address sequestration, make the cuts that we need to make, do it in a balanced way. They want us to -- they want them to walk and chew gum at the same time, address gun -- safe gun legislation and immigration. That's what they were elected to do.

BLITZER: Because I know that, at the news conference, the president will open up with a statement on the deficit and raising the nation's debt ceiling, but you know the reporters are going to ask questions on those two issues you just raised.

Let's quickly touch on both of them. You're here in Washington to deal with the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. As you well remember, President Bush tried it. He had Ted Kennedy on his side. He had John McCain on his side. It got -- it didn't go anywhere.

What makes you think if the president now decides to push for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for so many of the, what, 10, 12 million illegal immigrants here in the United States, it has a better chance this time?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it's called the fallout from the last election. They lost about 71 percent of the Latino vote, 74 percent of the Asian vote. The vast majority of people in the country in poll after poll after poll, including your own, say that people want comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway for citizenship.

I saw John McCain yesterday on "Face the Nation" and I can tell you that we were in the room together. He's working with some eight senators. He believes that we're on the path to get comprehensive immigration reform and I think that both parties would be -- would do well by the American people if they did that and I think that's the difference.

An election has a way of making a statement and I think it did, particularly for the Republicans who, as you know, were calling for the self-deportation of 11 million people.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Republicans and some Democrats out there, they say they won't vote for anything that smacks of what they call "amnesty."

Explain why you believe the proposal you're going to unveil today, the proposal the president will presumably unveil in the coming weeks, something he'll try to push through Congress, will not directly be amnesty.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it's earned. You have to pay your back taxes. You have to show that you've been in the country working for a period of time. You have to show that you had a background check so that you haven't broken any serious laws. You have to learn English and the like.

It's earned. It's not automatic. It would be a pathway to citizenship, but the fact of the matter is we need full citizenship. We can't have second class citizenship. That won't work. We can't have a temporary program. That won't work.

We can't have a piecemeal approach like some members in the Senate have called for. It's got to be comprehensive. It's got to be full citizenship. We've got to get these people from out of the dark and into the light.

You know, the effect of bringing these people from out of the dark and into the light at a time of debt and deficit is the following, $1.5 trillion input over the next 10 years to the U.S. economy. The Dreamers alone, about $329 billion. They help to maintain our Social Security system.

We know that we're now a majority, children, majority-minority are being born inn now in the United States. These kids will help beef up our Social Security system which we've got to strengthen right now.

BLITZER: So, you think, Mayor, looking at Washington, that in this second term, the first year of the second term, the president can deal with such important critical economic issues like raising the nation's set ceiling, but he can also deal with comprehensive immigration reform and also deal with the issue of gun safety out there, all three of these issues.

Do you think the president could juggle at the same time with Congress?

VILLARAIGOSA: I know President Barack Obama. That's not the real question. The answer is yes. That's not the real question. The question is, can the Congress? Remember the last Congress was the least productive congress in 50, 60 years, maybe longer. And this Congress has got to move in another direction. They've got to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time.

Yes, it doesn't feel like it based on what we have seen in the past, but the people elected them to do that. And remember, what is their rating at right now? I think 12 percent.

If they want to pick that up, if they want to do something right by the American people, they're going to have to address the major issues facing the nation right now.

And, yes, as an outsider -- and, remember, I'm mayor of the second largest city in the United States of America and speaking on behalf of the Conference of Mayors, I can tell you that all of the mayors feel very strongly about this issue, all of the issues that I just mentioned.

BLITZER: Including guns?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, absolutely. You know, we need an assault weapons ban. We need to ban high-capacity magazines. We need universal background checks. Right now, 40 percent of all the gun sales are done by private owners. No background check is required.

We need to beef up our mental health registry, provide more mental health services. We also need to address the culture of violence in this country and parents need to have real conversations and teachers and students need to have real conversations in our schools about bullying and the issue of violence and how violent prone we are as a nation.

BLITZER: Mayor Villaraigosa, always good to have you here on CNN. We appreciate your dropping by.

VILLARAIGOSA: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: And, once again, we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He's getting ready to walk into the East Room of the White House. We'll check in with our reporters and our analysts right after this.


BLITZER: It's his last formal news conference. Within the next few minutes, the president will be in the East Room of the White House. He'll open with a statement on raising the nation's debt ceiling, the economic situation and then he'll take reporters' questions. At least a half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, maybe a little bit longer, we'll see.

We're standing by. We have got all of our reporters and analysts with us, including our chief political analyst Gloria Borger who is here.

Gloria, what are you going to be looking for in the president's opening statement?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think I'm going to be looking for him to lay down the gauntlet to the Republicans. This is a press conference that is going to say, OK, we have got to extend the debt ceiling. We don't want to shut down the president, I assume the president will be telling us. And he's going to say to the American public, we have to be responsible about this.

Now, of course, what Republicans have been saying is the only way to force this president to take this country to tackling the entitlement problem that we have got with big automatic spending in programs like Medicare, Social Security is to force him on this debt ceiling issue.

So, I know it seems like we have seen this movie before, Wolf, because we have on the fiscal cliff, but I think this is going to make the fiscal cliff fight look small because Republicans are angry about what happened last time. They're angry at their speaker. They believe he capitulated on the spending cut side. They're not willing to do that again, and many Republicans are willing to take this right to default and the president is going to say that's irresponsible.

BLITZER: Let's go to Dana Bash up on the Hill, our senior congressional correspondent. Dana, there are plenty of Republicans, especially in the House of Representatives, who are more than anxious to go through this fight with the president right now because they say the nation's debt is exploding, the deficit spending is exploding and they have got to do something about it right now.


And just as Gloria was saying, there are certainly a number of rank and file House Republicans who are willing to make good on the threat, make good on the threat that if the president, if the White House and Democrats here do not agree to couple every dollar that we increase the debt limit with a dollar of spending cuts that they're willing to default on the U.S.'s loan and, taking it to the next level, they're willing to shut down the government if they don't agree to more spending cuts.

There appears to be a little bit of shift, at least in terms of the public messaging, even today among House Republican leaders, Wolf, and that is that, in the past, even up until last week, I've heard from Republican sources that the Speaker himself made very clear internally that he is not willing to, for lack of a better way to say it, shoot the hostage.

He's willing to say that he wants spending cuts, but at the end of the day, he's not willing to force the U.S. to default on its loans because he understands that that would be very potentially devastating to the credit limit and other things in the economy.

But in terms of the public message towards the White House, that has shifted. You saw Cathy McMorris Rogers, a member of the Republican leadership team, tell Politico this morning that at least they're willing to potentially shut down the government. That is also something that they have not been saying that they were willing to do.

Whether this is bravado, trying to put the onus back on the president, or whether it is real, that is a big question mark. And I think we'll know more later this week because House Republicans are going to have a retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, and I think that this is going to be Topic A, how far they're willing to go.

BLITZER: Yeah, I think there's a split among those House Republicans and that was evidence on the vote in the fiscal cliff. The Senate version passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, but the majority of Republicans in the House voted against it, even though the Speaker voted in favor.

And Paul Ryan, the chairman of the budget committee, the vice presidential nominee last time around, voted in favor of it, but Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, the number two and three leaders in the House, voted against it.

So, there's a real split.

Dana wants to weigh in quickly.

BORGER: I just want to add to Dana that I think -- and, Dana, you tell me if you agree -- but I think this could be a moment of truth really for the House Speaker because his speakership was clearly weakened during the fiscal cliff and now his Republicans say you can only bring something to the floor if a majority of us agree with you, unlike the fiscal cliff.

If he decides that he really -- that passing the debt ceiling is more important that puts him at odds with his own Republicans if a majority don't agree. Right, Dana? So, I mean, this is his ...

BASH: Yeah, I think you're exactly right there, Gloria. I think that's an excellent point.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, with the fiscal cliff vote, Wolf, you're exactly right. There was a split. Only 85 Republicans voted for it. The majority of the Republican caucus did not vote for the fiscal cliff package.